Beersheba’s Carasso Science Park, a NIS 160 million project initiated by the
Rashi Foundation and undertaken by several partners including the municipality
and the Education Ministry, officially opens its gates on Sunday.
park, which extends over some 17 hectares in Beersheba’s Old City, hosts 11
interactive exhibitions; the central attraction of the museum is a nuclear
energy display developed in collaboration with the Nuclear Research Center and
the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.
The park will also serve as an
educational facility for students from high schools in the area; they will come
several times a year with their class to conduct experiments, guided by staff,
and visit exhibits directly connected to their studies.
The goal of the
complex is to “kindle interest in science and technology and offer opportunities
for acquiring science skills and knowledge, within an innovative educational
framework,” according to the Rashi Foundation.
The idea for the science
park was born in 2005, as part of the Education Ministry’s MADAROM project,
established back in 1997 with Rashi to strengthen science and technology
education in the South. Another initiative that resulted from the project is the
Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center at Ben-Gurion University.
“This park is
in fact the icing on the cake of the MADAROM project,” Hubert Leven, president
of the Rashi Foundation, told The Jerusalem Post with a smile last week. “It’s
the end product of the project.”
“Beersheba has particularly invested in
making the city and the region attractive in recent years due to the transfer of
the military there,” Leven explained. “But we came here way before that and the
idea then was really to focus on the periphery and close the
“There were huge educational and social gaps and our ambition was
really to try and close them, so we are practically not invested in the center
of the country where there are more resources,” he continued.
Turgeman, Rashi’s executive vice president and director-general, said being
involved in the periphery allows the foundation to “make an
“It’s not something you can achieve in one project, it’s a
concept,” he said. “There is wonderful potential in the South and the periphery
as a whole, and all we need to do is give the kids tools to become
To make a big change, Turgeman stressed, there needs to be “a
critical mass of excellent graduates who will want to start their own companies
in the town they live in: Dimona, Beersheba and so on.
“In Israel, we
have three main science museums: One in Jerusalem, one at the Weizmann Institute
[in Rehovot] and the Technion’s Madatech [in Haifa],” he pointed
“The access of citizens from the South to these three science
museums is very poor so most of them don’t attend museums, and we know that
museums are key elements in exposing people to the beauty of science, of higher
“Knowing that kids in the South are not exposed to museums
explains part of the existing gaps,” he said.
Turgeman explained that an
other element is needed to help children achieve excellence:
“If you don’t have computers in school, if you don’t
have labs in school, you can continue to talk about how important science is,
but you can’t achieve anything,” he said.
“If you look at kids who go to
museums, they play with the exhibits and they run from one to the other, but at
the end of the visit you ask them what they learned and they haven’t necessarily
learned anything, besides the fun,” he added. “That’s why we made it so they
first see an exhibit and then go to the lab [at the science park] where they
practice what they saw, so that at the end of the process, the kids will
understand better what they learned in school and it will be more realistic for
According to Turgeman, even after children are provided the
appropriate exposure and infrastructure and become excellent in scientific
subjects, there are still missing pieces to the process: They need access to
“When you reach the point that they have a degree in
science, you have officially made an impact,” he said. “This is not a one-year
project, it’s a long-term vision.”
“Very often you find kids who have the
potential, they pass the matriculation exam at a high level but for
socioeconomic reasons don’t pursue higher education, and then they need the
extra push,” Leven said.
The Rashi Foundation aspires to “create
qualified population to the South who will lead the future Silicon Valley of
“We have everything we need to make this happen in the South,”
Turgeman said with conviction. “The army which has moved down there, an
excellent university [BGU] and vast land to build on.
“When there will be
hi-tech industry in the periphery, talented population will stay there and
population from the Center will prefer to leave the dense city and go to the
South or the North,” he explained.
Leven added that this aspiration is
“not just a hope, it’s a reality.”
“When you see where the South is now
compared to 15 years go, you see it’s real,” he said.
The Carasso Science
Park is part of the Gustave Leven Campus, named after the late founder of the
Rashi Foundation, which also includes hotel accommodation, a swimming pool and a